Biffle Proves Roush Still King At MIS

Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Greg Biffle wins 19th career cup race and 4th career race at Michigan!

6/16/2013

By: Billy Tewes

It was a very Happy Father’s Day for Greg Biffle as he won Ford Racings 1,000th Nascar race by holding off a late race charge from Jimmie Johnson to win the Quicken Loans 400.  Biffle took over the lead late and bested Kevin Harvick after the second place car of Jimmie Johnson cut a left front tire in turn two with less than five to go.  Today’s race marks the second consecutive Michigan race that Greg Biffle won (won fall race of 2012) and the Quicken Loans 40o is Biffle’s first of the 2013 season.

The Quicken Loans 400 began with Kurt Busch pressuring Carl Edwards for the lead. On a slick race track, Busch slid up into Edwards, causing Edwards to back out of the throttle which sent Kurt Busch to the lead. The first caution of the race would come when the 51 of Bobby Labonte spun out in turn 2 and collected Jeff Gordon in the process.

Leader Kurt Busch held onto the lead until lap 29 where he would snap loose off turn two and back into the wall. Early on many drivers were wrecking loose off the treacherous turn two. The next two cautions would be caused by debris while the Hendrick cars of Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr took turns leading the race.

Kasey Kahne looked to be the most dominant car of the race until he cut a right front tire and pounded the wall. Kahne would be ok but his day was ruined. This caution handed the race lead back to Dale Earnhardt Jr who sped away from Matt Kenseth on the restart. Jr’s reign as leader came to a quick halt as he would drop a cylinder and eventually blow up at lap 131.

Jimmie Johnson made quick work of Earnhardt Jr’s motor going sour. Once the caution came out for Jr’s motor exploding, Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus decided to take four tires whereas the rest of the leaders took two. This put Johnson back to 19th in the running order. Carl Edwards would win the battle off pit road. Edwards would hold off a charge from Joey Logano but couldn’t however hold off teammate Greg Biffle as he blew past him.

The final green flag pit stop began with the second place car of Carl Edwards pitting for four tires. Race leader Greg Biffle came down to pit road but just as Biffle was completing his stop, Jamie McMurray blew a right front tire on lap 168 and brought out a caution. Edwards would be trapped a lap down but Biffle would luck out and come back around to take the lead. Edwards got burned and fell all the way back to 24th.

Biffle held off Kevin Harvick until Jimmie Johnson raced up and passed Harvick. Johnson’s flat tire made it four for four when it came to problems for Hendrick Motorsports. Biffle’s victory proves that even though Roush Fenway Racing appears to have taken a step back this year, they are still the team to beat at their home track of Michigan. Nascar heads out west to the Sonoma Raceway, which is one of the two road courses Nascar visits every year. Sonoma is definitely a wild card on the Sprint Cup Schedule and one to be sure to tune in for as the past eight races at Sonoma have yielded eight different winners!

Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Kasey Kahne catching air at Sonoma!

Johnson Celebrates With a Party at the Poconos

6/9/2013

By: Billy Tewes

The Party at the Pocono’s will continue in victory lane for Jimmie Johnson dominated another race this year. This time, Johnson was able to avoid any restart penalties as he completely covered the field this afternoon to win the Party At the Poconos 400. Johnson led all but 32 of the 160 laps as he took home his 63rd career victory and third at Pocono.

The pole for the tricky triangle was awarded to Jimmie Johnson due to qualifying being rained out and Johnson would prove that the pole award was the only thing handed to him. The first lap of the race saw Kasey Kahne fall way off the pace and this was due to a drivetrain issue. Kahne would eventually make his way back to the track but would finish 36th and 19 laps down.

The first set of laps would see Johnson’s only hiccup of the day as Carl Edwards would take the lead from second. However, it would not take Johnson long to regain the lead and run away from the field.

Throughout the race and especially early on, drivers complained of extremely loose race cars. Drivers such as Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle slightly fell back because of extremely loose race cars. The first few sets of pit stops would come under green until debris brought out the first caution. For majority of the second half of the race, the 39 car of Ryan Newman was off pit cycle from the leaders. At first this appeared to be a bad deal for Newman as most of the leaders had to make only one final pitstop and Newman had to make two. But a series of late cautions aided Newman’s fuel mileage gamble and he would end up finishing 5th, his second top five of the year.

The first accident of the day came when Matt Kenseth began to slide back. In the tunnel turn (turn 2), Juan Pablo Montoya tried to take advantage of the slower Kenseth, but got loose and washed up into Kenseth, taking out both. Kenseth would never be the same and went on to finish 25th, Montoya would finish a respectable 14th. A similar situation happened with Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart. On a restart, in the exact same tunnel turn, Keselowski slid up into Tony Stewart but both drivers had awesome saves. Tony Stewart would race on to finish in the top 5 whereas Keselowski slid back to finish 16th.

Johnson’s domination overshadows great runs by Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr and as I mentioned earlier, the fuel strategy run by Ryan Newman. These drivers had a shot at challenging Johnson for the lead on restarts, but that was about the only time they could come close to the back bumper of Johnson’s car.

Race fans its the time of the year for Nascar to head to Brooklyn, Michigan, the site of the 2 mile oval and first stop at the Michigan International Speedway. Another track that cracks the 200 MPH mark and one that always turns out classic finishes. The first Michigan race of 2002 was one of my favorite races as Dale Jarrett nearly passed the field in trying to chase Matt Kenseth down for the win. Kenseth would hold off Dale Jarrett but it was really amazing to see what fresh tires can do. My pick for the Quicken Loans 400 is going to be Jimmie Johnson. He is going to win back to back races and show the Hendrick Motorsports has a firm grip on producing great cars with this new gen six package.

Michigan International Speedway. Beautiful, but an absolute pain to get out of after the race!

Fearless David(s) Beat The Goliaths At Talladega

5/6/2013

By: Billy Tewes

The script was played out exactly how we expected it for the entire course of the Aarons 499 at the Talladega Super Speedway. There was a wreck, two of them actually, that destroyed over half of the fields chances at winning. There was a leader who looked as if he had a death grip on Talladega and was not going to let go. And then, there was a surprise winner.

Enter Front Row Motorsports. The two cars of David Ragan and David Gilliand paired up to mount a final charge for the ages that put Front Row 1 and 2 as they crossed the start finish line. This race saw two rain delays that lasted well over 3 hours and pitted drivers against damp conditions as well as a disappearing sun. The 2.56 mile track does not have lights around it, so time was of the essence as the sun faded.

Once again, the dominant car at a restrictor plate track did not win the race. Matt Kenseth led 142 laps and was poised to get his third victory of the season until the final major pileup forced a green white checkered finish. Kenseth would get passed by Carl Edwards with one to go and would try to follow him into turn one where David Ragan and David Gilliand were beginning to mount their charge. Kenseth slipped to the high side believing he would latch onto Edwards draft and try to pass him by himself. Kenseth stated in his interview that he felt that if he blocked Ragan, he would have wrecked the entire field. Ragan and Gilliland jettisoned into the lead down the backstretch and never looked back.

Those two driver for Front Row Motorsports which is one of the underfunded “small” teams in Nascar. They managed to stay out of two wrecks after hanging out in the back of the pack most of the day and chose the right time to make their final push. Ragan won his second Cup series race and first since he was pushed to victory at the summer Daytona night race a few years ago.

The first of two major pileups would be caused by Kyle Busch when he fanned out to the high side and thought he could pass the 5 car of Kasey Kahne. What ensued was Busch clipping Kahne, sending him into the wall and collecting drivers like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and many others.

Kurt Busch Flipping Over On Top of Ryan Newman

The real controversy surrounding this race came in part to the final giant pileup that saw Kurt Busch flip his car on top of the car of Ryan Newman. Both Newman and Busch were very critical of the conditions they were racing in, especially the darkness. I was quite surprised that Nascar did not shorten the race at least 15 laps after the second rain delay. They put drivers in a compromising situation. Here is what Newman had to say about the race conditions:

“I wanted to make sure I get that point across. Y’all can figure out who ‘they’ is. That’s no way to end a race. Our car was much better than that. That’s just poor judgment in restarting the race, poor judgment. I mean, you got what you wanted, but poor judgment and running in the dark and running in the rain.”

I completely agree with Newman. It was foolish for Nascar to keep racing after they knew how dark it would get. They ran into the same situation with the nationwide race the night before as that race was also delayed due to rain and had to be shortened. Nascar dropped the ball. I think the perfect compromise as I just mentioned would be to shorten it from 60 laps to 45 and that gives drivers about 15 more minutes of sunlight to work with as opposed to it being too dark. When it comes to driver safety, I can’t believe Nascar compromised driver safety to satisfy whatever remaining fans that stayed through all of the rain delays.

Next week the cup boys head to the “Lady In Black” at Darlington. Darlington has been known to eat up drivers as it is incredibly diffcult to navigate the 1.5 mile track. The turns are different lengths and the banking makes it difficult to enter the corners, thus drivers end up smacking the wall. The walls are painted white, but by the time all of the races are done, it will be marred with hundreds of different color combinations. Last year, the Furniture Row racing driver Regan Smith (who was on older tires) shocked the Nascar world and held off Carl Edwards to win his first career Sprint Cup Series race. I don’t think there will be the same magic this weekend. It is so hard to predict races this year especially one at Darlington where anything can happen. If I had a choice, I would say Matt Kenseth and here is why. He is so fired up after leading the most laps in the past two weeks and not winning that he will not only lead the most laps at Dralington, but he will win his third race of the year! Enjoy the carnage that Darlington brings and I will be back with a post race wrap up of all the action!

Texas Terry Labonte’s Final Career Victory At Darlington in 2003

 

Harvick Steals One At Richmond

Race winner Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Kevin Harvick burns it down after winning the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

4/28/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Kevin Harvick stole the show at Richmond to win his first race of the 2013 season. Ironically the Toyota Owners 400 would be won by a Chevrolet! Harvick was nowhere to be found until the last stretch of the race where he ran down race leader Juan Pablo Montoya who was trying to end a 94 race winless streak. Harvick led all of three laps en route to victory lane.

Harvick ended up benefitting from the drivers that took older tires. The drivers that pitted got bottled up behind the three drivers that stayed out and Harvick slipped by those three to win. Harvick bumped himself up into the top 10 in the points standings with his win.

Matt Kenseth led the most laps last night with 140, followed by Clint Bowyer who would finish 2nd and lead 113 laps. Juan Pablo Montoya who led late until the final caution led 67 and the only other significant lap leader was Kurt Busch with 36.

The race got really interesting when the #11 car of Brian Vickers slapped the wall to setup a green white checkered finish. What absolutely blew me away with this race is that more drivers did not stay out on the final restart to gain track position. Three drivers with older tires stayed out and after the leaders pit, these drivers had tires that were 60 laps older than the leaders. Track position is so important with only two laps to go and the decision on the parts of the crew chiefs to bring their drivers to pit road could have destroyed their chances at winning and that ended up happening to Juan Pablo Montoya.

Juan Pablo Montoya was in the lead and came out 6th after the stop. He would end up finishing 4th but the caution at the end essentially ruined his night. This race really hurts for him because he was trying to end a 94 race winless streak and get his first win on an oval.

Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch got into after the race and Kurt Busch was also upset with Matt Kenseth. Kurt Busch got into Tony Stewart and nearly wrecked Stewart. Stewart then fell back and finished 18th. After that Kenseth bumped Kurt Busch out of the groove coming to the checkered flag and finished 7th and Busch finished 9th. Busch then rammed Kenseth in the back bumper. Kurt Busch has had a history of run-ins with drivers and easily loses his temper so it was no surprise to see him go crazy last night!

Make sure to tune in next week as the drama continues at the Talladega Superspeedway. The track is notorious for “the big one” where multiple cars wreck at dangerously high speeds. Im going to go out on a limb here and say that Jeff Gordon is going to steal the show with a last lap pass. Adios Nascar fans and I’ll have more insight going into the race weekend!

The fall finish at Talladega last year!!

Shoot To Thrill! Kyle Busch Runs Roughshod At Texas

4/14/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Kyle Busch was back in victory lane after having a flawless night in his Interstate Batteries Camry. The NRA 500 came down to a battle off pit road between Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Busch. Busch’s team jumped him up one stop but that didn’t even matter because Kyle’s car was superior to Truex’s.  This win marks Busch’s first win at the Texas Motor Speedway and his second of the 2013 season.

Busch led 171 of the 334 laps and it was obvious from his new track record that he had a strong car all weekend. Busch also won the Nationwide Series race the night before in dominating fashion as well. The only other driver to come close to Busch’s level would be Martin Truex Jr who led 142 laps and was leading the race late until the final pit stop. It should be noted that Martin Truex Jr did however fail post race inspection for having the nose of his car too low which was not up to par with the inspection policies. Any penalties for this infraction will come later this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was docked some points and his crew chief might get suspended.

There weren’t a lot of drivers who could stick with Busch and Truex who combined led 313 of the 334 laps. One of the drivers that could hang with the cream of the crop was Jeff Gordon, but his day was ended on lap 306 with suspension issues.

The big story out of this weekend comes in two parts. It happened before and after the race was over. Before the race started, the Penske Racing cars of last years champion Brad Keselowski in the #2 Miller Lite Fusion and the #22 of Joey Logano failed pre race inspection for having rear end housing parts that Nascar ended up confiscating. Both ended up racing but Brad Keselowski was fired up after the race:

“The way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolute shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve ever seen a team targeted in my life. My guys keep their heads on straight and they showcased why they’re a winning team and a championship team.”

I sure hope Brad is ready to open up his pocket book. Earlier this year Nascar fined Denny Hamlin for criticizing the generation six car. I would not be surprised to see them fine Keselowski for saying damaging things about the integrity of the sport. I don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes, but I believe he could have handled this much better by saying nothing than opening himself up to Nascar for fines.

My prediction of Matt Kenseth winning the NRA 500 fell short so now I am 0/2 since beginning this prediction segment. Kenseth and crew could not get front grip out of the car and he seemed to be tight off the corner so he could never make significant progress toward the front and would finish 12th. Next week is first of two spots at the Kansas Speedway which is the sister track to Las Vegas. I won’t pick Matt Kenseth again even though I think he’ll be strong like he was at Vegas. My pick instead will be Greg Biffle in the #16 Fusion to get his first victory of the season. Biffle’s won at Kansas twice and the Roush cars are historically strong at 1.5 mile tracks. There is always more excitement instore so stay tuned for the STP 400 post race wrap up!

A glimpse of the potential madness at Kansas!!

Martinsville Domination Jimmie Johnson Style

4/7/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Martinsville might have to be renamed “Jimmie Johnsonville” after Jimmie Johnson took home the Grandfather clock at this afternoon’s STP Gas Booster 500.  The mayhem at Martinsville was contained due in part to a dominating performance Johnson. Johnson led 347 of the 500 laps en route to his second win of the year and his 8th career win at Martinsville.

Johnson dominated this weekend from start to finish. Johnson took the pole position in qualifying Friday afternoon with a speed of 98.4 which was good enough for a brand new track record. Very few drivers were able to challenge Johnson and it seemed as if his car was on a rail all day long.

Early on, it seemed as if the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were going to be the dominating drivers. But after lap 363, Jimmie Johnson would prove to be too much to handle. Johnson and his #48 Lowes team were no lower than fourth position the entire 500 laps of the race. This comes as no surprise as I noted in my last blog, the Hendrick cars have always been extremely good at Martinsville.

Martinsville is generally a one lane race track. It is nearly impossible for drivers to pass and that caused trouble, especially when it came to flat tires. Drivers tried desperately to get to the bottom lane on restarts as well as when trying to pass another driver. In some instances, the cars would collide and one drivers’ fender would dig into the tire of the driver next to them. Drivers had to bump each other out of the way for position and that caused for a lot of beat up cars and dented hoods. This race was old school Martinsville at its finest!

Last week I mentioned that Dale Earnhardt Jr might win his first race of the year. Unfortunately for him, he would end up finishing 24th, worst of all the Hendrick cars. Johnson, Gordon and Kahne would finish first, third and fourth respectively. I also mentioned in last week’s blog that there had been five different winners this year. My thunder was completely ruined this week as Dale Earnhardt Jr did not win and Johnson became the first multi race winner.

I want to talk about one really cool thing that came out of Martinsville that I’ve never seen before. With 15 laps to go, Kurt Busch broke a brake line. The combination of the brake fluid spraying on the hot engine caused a huge engine fire. This video shows the accident and also shows that Kurt Busch reaches into his dash and pushes a button that triggers a fire extinguisher that is inside the engine compartment. This is a really neat feature that was designed with the generation six car that really shows how safety minded the engineers were when they built this car.

With Martinsville in the books, Nascar moves out West to the Texas Motor Speedway where high speeds will be the storyline. Texas Motor Speedway is a mile and a half track with high banked turns that allow drivers to hit over 200 MPH. Will Jimmie Johnson carry the momentum of winning this week into back to back victories? That is quite possible; however my pick for next week is going to be Matt Kenseth. Kenseth is coming off a disappointing finish at Martinsville after leading nearly 80 laps. Kenseth has won twice at Texas and he has truly found his way with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. He has already won at Las Vegas, a similar track and has won Texas twice in his career.

Matt Kenseth’s last victory at Texas in 2011.

Early Season Reflection; Update on Hamlin’s Condition

By: Billy Tewes

Happy Easter to all and welcome to my premature reflection of the 2013 Sprint Cup Season. What can we say that hasn’t already been said by the great competition on the track? Aside from Daytona, nearly every race has had a memorable finish and some sort of strategy employed to determine the victor. So with that being said, here are the three things that have been a pleasant surprise for me.

1. Generation six car

Nascar redesigned the car template for the 2013 season. Overall, I would give this car an A grade. The drivers love it and know that it is a few tweaks away from being competitive on all of the tracks. The look of the car is so much more visually appealing than that of the Car of Tomorrow. The car of tomorrow was Nascar’s attempt at making a safer car. The car was extremely safe, but it also came at the cost of an ugly boxy looking car. The 2013 generation six car looks closer to the street cars that manufacturers sell to us consumers and I think that is an important part of Motorsports. Nascar wants to build a big connection with their fans and what better way than to make them feel like they can drive the same cars that their favorite drivers race.

2. Five Different Winners

When I heard about a new stock car style with the generation six car, I kind of assumed that some teams would have greater competitive advantages than others. But so far, it seems like all three manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota) are on a level playing field. There have been five different drivers who have won in five races. Chevrolet has won two, Toyota has won two and Ford has won one. Matt Kenseth almost broke that trend at Bristol but was wrecked out by Jeff Gordon’s flat tire. I think this is a great indication for the generation six car and who knows, maybe we’ll go up to ten races with ten different winners!

3. Strategy

Strategy has always been an important aspect of Nascar. Teams are not familiar with the brand new generation six car when it comes to older tires and different adjustments. I am very surprised to see teams who are racing for wins take risks such as not taking tires or only take two tires to get in the top spot. I think with the generation six car, we are seeing how valuable clean air is. Clean air is when the first place driver has no cars in front of them and have a clean air flow and generally have a better advantage speed wise. Its just shocking to see drivers like Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano on older tires actually being as fast or faster than the drivers who have four fresh tires. It is a true testament to how good this generation six car is and that we can expect some great racing to come!

With all that being said, we are on to Martinsville, the paper clip in Virginia! Much like Bristol, this track is known for short tempers. The track is the shortest distance wise on the cup schedule at .526 miles. The flatness of the track, combined with the fact that generally the only way to pass someone is to bump them out of the way is the reason this place is so chaotic.

Denny Hamlin has won three of the last seven Martinsville races but will sidelined for the next five races due to a compression fracture in his back. With that being said I think Dale Earnhardt Jr could get his first win of the season at Martinsville. The point leader nearly won this race last year but Kevin Harvick passed him late to win. The Hendrick cars are always competitive at Martinsville so it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the four (Earnhardt Jr, Gordon, Johnson, Kahne) could take home the trophy. Until next time, adios and God speed Nascar fans!